Tuesday, January 26, 2016

New in fiction

I'm reading a wide variety of things this week and one of the things I'm really appreciating is the language of the writer.  One of the things I so admire about writers is the way they choose the words they do.  This first book is a great example of that.  It's called "The Hired Girl" by Laura Amy Schlitz.  It's about 14 year old Joan, who we first meet living on her father's farm, tending to the needs of her father and her four older brothers.  Her mother has died and so she's left alone with the tasks of keeping the house clean as well as cooking and laundry.  She really wants to go to school but her father has forbidden her to return (he thinks it's a waste of time as she's really only fit for cleaning and cooking).  Joan's mom has a small surprise for her and when Joan's father crosses a line, Joan decides it's time to seek her fortune elsewhere.  She buys a train ticket to the big city with a plan to get a job as a hired girl (she's seen newspaper ads offering $6 a week!).  But the train is late, it's dark when she arrives in the big city and she gets some bad advice from a man on the train and ends up sobbing on a park bench where she's rescued by a young man.  He takes her home and his mother offers her a job in their house.  I kept thinking I knew where the story was going but that wasn't it at all.  The family is Jewish, which comes a big surprise to Joan (who's mother was Catholic and her father was Methodist but after her mom died, her dad didn't have much use for church).  The family is quite well to do (they own a big department store) and have a vast library, which they offer to Joan.  Joan listens carefully to the father, dreams about the sons, and makes friends with the daughter as well as the crabby old housekeeper but she also follows her own heart by returning to the Catholic church and taking lessons there.  I liked this story a lot.  Joan's voice was strong and clear and it would be a great one to compare to books like "Hattie Big Sky" by Kirby Larson or some of the later Laura Ingalls Wilder books.

Here's a little video interview with the author about the book and the journal style of writing she used to create the book.

I've been SO looking forward to this sequel!  I was so excited that one of my book clabbers had it and even more excited when he said to me on Friday "Mrs. Tanner, I just finished this and it was awesome.  Would you like to borrow it?"  It was just as good or maybe even better than I was hoping.  It's the sequel to "Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's library" and it's called "Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics" by Chris Grabenstein.  If you never read "Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's library", it's completely ok because the book tells enough of the back story for this one to make sense on it's own, but just in case... Mr. Lemoncello is the world's most successful game designer. He's designed both board and video games and he is (in his own words) a bazillionaire.  In the first book, he wants to give back to the community he grew up in (a small town in Ohio) so he builds the most technologically innovative library in the world in homage to the librarian who inspired him to read and imagine and become the man he is.  After he builds the library, he invites some of the local kids to compete in his library with puzzles and games for a lifetime supply of games.  A group of really nice kids win, with a team captain named Kyle.  Of course there is also a group of disgruntled losers (cheaters) and at the beginning of this new book, the losers and cheaters are trying to figure out a way to force a new competition or at least close the library.  The Library Olympics are a group of games that are all based on things you would want to know in the library (like library cart relays where you have to find the books that are from your assigned section of the Dewey Decimal System and then race your cart as quickly as you can through the library with out hitting any thing or losing any books off the cart).  There are also evil villains who want to have a library where the librarians say shush and there are only "approved" books.  There is a very nice piece about banned books that I think kids will find very interesting.  The whole book is like a love letter to libraries with a million different text connections.  I loved it and I'm hoping to have a Library Olympics in my library this week, because what could be more fun?  Ok, maybe reading this book!  

Here's a book trailer!

The last one is REALLY new.  In fact, it's publication date (according to Netgalley) is February 9.  It's picture book called "If I Had a Gryphon" by Vikki VanSickle.  It's a funny little book about a little girl who just got a hamster but was really hoping for something more exotic, like a gryphon or a manticore.  It's written in rhymes and if you have no idea what these magical creatures are supposed to be like (as I assume most little kids would not know these... a few were familiar to me because of their appearances in Harry Potter books and movies) but the author gives you some good clues about why each magical creature wouldn't exactly make a great pet.  For example, she says that although a unicorn would be tons of fun because you could braid their pretty mane and shine her horn, but they are shy and the picture shows the unicorn hiding under the bed  while the girl's friends look on.  The pictures are adorably cartoony and expressive.  My students seem to love books about magical creatures and I think this one will have a lot of appeal because the pictures aren't scary and the rhymes are very fun and friendly.  I liked this one a lot.

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